The WhatCounts Blog
Everything you need to know about smart, personalized email marketing.
Do you ever wish there was an easy way to view your email designs on every screen size available?
It’s no secret: of course you do.
Mobile viewership of email is skyrocketing, going head-to-head with desktops. The problem isn’t that we don’t know hand-held devices are here to rule the world. It just seems as if there are countless versions of screen sizes to design for, including giant phones and mini tablets.
Your first response should be to narrow down the results of the most popular devices used to view your emails. You can usually find this in the reporting section of your email service provider. Work on responsive designs, or at the very least mobile-friendly layouts, that works best with those screens.
Now it’s time to preview your emails on those devices, and you don’t have to make a trip to Best Buy to do it.
The best-kept secret for previewing emails on multiple devices is actually a simple feature in the Google Chrome browser. Gasp!
It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done. The process is simple:
- Open the .html file with your email’s HTML content in Chrome. One way to do this is by selecting the “view in browser” link.
- Right click and choose Inspect Element from the dropdown menu.
- Hit the ESC key on your keyboard.
- Click on the Emulate tab.
- From the dropdown, choose the device screen size in which you want to see your email.
Important: Refresh the screen before you choose a new screen size to emulate. Otherwise, you’ll be SOL.
Done! Your email will appear as it does on the chosen device, including any responsive design you’ve built into it.
And if you want your emails to be responsive, (and super engaging), but you’re not sure how to get started, just hit us up. We’ve got your back.
If you’ve ever moved, you know it takes a long time to unpack and get everything in order. Lots of stuff gets lost in the shuffle between the old place and the new. You almost always find one of those lost items a few months after the move, dust it off, and find a new place for it.
A website redesign is a lot like a move. You pick up all of the existing content on your website and throw it into a whole new space, where the old styles, formats, forms and other whatnot may not fit. Landing pages accidentally get left behind. Important features of your website disappear and you have to dig through your “boxes” of content and code to find them. It can take a long time to get your website up-and-running the way it was before the redesign.
Speaking from experience, this kind of thing happened to us when we redesigned our website earlier this year. And about a month ago, we rediscovered a long-missed feature: the popup email opt-in form.
We’d used the popup feature on and off on our old site. There’s a lot of controversy about the effectiveness of popups, also known as light boxes. There’s no doubt people find them annoying, seeing as they do that “popping up” action when subscribers hit websites. What many marketers believe is that the annoyingness leads to negative actions, such as someone leaving their site.
When we reinstated our popup, we wanted to see if these doubting Thomases were right, or if the irritating aspects of the hovering opt-in would get people to take a positive action, such as follow the call-to-action and say yes to receive our email newsletter.
The first step was to design a popup that matched our website redesign, give a value proposition (We Love Email!), and include a call-to-action: Sign up. Next, we released it into the wild to see what it would do. We checked back in a little over a month’s time to see how it was fairing.
The results? We’d received a little over 1,300 new subscribers since the addition of the popup to the website. In the year before the popup went live on our website, we received just 2,058 new subscribers via the website.
Talk about finding hidden gold in the leftover website “moving boxes”!
So do popups work for email subscriptions? Definitely. Are they still annoying? They can be, but there are ways to make them less so. For example, we adjusted the settings on our popup so visitors only see it a maximum of three times.
It has become the digital glue for social, mobile and web. It has an ROI of up to $44, more than any other channel at your disposal. It’s constantly reinventing itself, in the last few years delivering amazing relevance to subscribers through dynamic content and real-time personalization.
Email: Marketers love it for all these reasons and they’re secure in investing in it because of its proven worth.
As a mature communications channel, there is no mystery to email success: Lifecycle marketing is the name, engaging customers is the game. More and more marketers are finding success with personalization and a lifecycle approach to email marketing.
But what exactly is lifecycle marketing?
Lifecycle marketing is, when it comes down to it, a holistic approach to your marketing strategy.
It walks customers along a path, from when they first see your brand name to when they’re making their third or fourth purchase. Instead of taking into account the content you want customers to see, lifecycle marketing refocuses your messages to concentrate on what readers want to see. Today’s smart marketers leverage automation to send dynamic emails to subscribers at the appropriate stage of their relationship with the brand.
But why is it so important to develop this philosophy of nurturing an ongoing relationship with subscribers?
Lifecycle marketing wins because today’s subscribers expect personalized messages – content that speaks to where they live, what they’ve bought before, and what they’ve told you they like to see. When you use the lifecycle approach to send these relevant, timely messages to subscribers, return-on-investment increases considerably.
The results speak for themselves: Lifecycle marketing, and in particular email, is the way to grab subscribers’ attention, create brand loyalty, and drive the bottom line.
The 5 Stages of the Lifecycle Framework
The lifecycle framework is divided into five stages representing a person’s journey from first brand touch to complete disengagement. Additionally, several campaigns and content techniques support each stage.
1. Acquire: Identifying your audience is the first step in the acquiring stage of the lifecycle. You cannot draw in potential customers if you don’t know who they are. Once you know who your audience is, capture their attention through search, email signup, social media awareness, and refer-a-friend campaigns.
2. Convert to Customers: You’ve got prospects’ attention, now set expectations for your brand and content with a welcome email. Next, create incentives to purchase by sending a first-purchase email, sending a shopping cart abandonment email, and tracking browser behavior to drive a behavior-based message.
3. Captivate and Grow Customers: Your job isn’t done after someone makes a purchase. Now you must influence customers to stay engaged with your brand and buy again. Show reciprocity through loyalty program emails, persuade customers you’re like them by upselling and cross-selling, and employ auto-response campaigns to personalize transactional messaging.
4. Retain Active Customers: Don’t forget about customers who’ve been around for a while. It’s important to keep them in the loop by sending anniversary emails, email newsletters and apology emails when needed. Create and optimize a preference center so your long-time subscribers can always give you more information about themselves. Most importantly, identify and reward brand evangelists.
5. Win Back Inactive Customers: When customers disengage with your brand, it’s important to reach out to them. Returning customers are valuable, so reactivate customers’ interests with re-engagement and win-back email campaigns.
Email is the Key to a Successful Lifecycle Framework
You may have noticed email takes a primary role in each stage of the lifecycle framework.
Although other channels aid in customer engagement, email is the digital glue that brings them together to create a cohesive strategy. Email is the world’s preferred communications channel, and as such, creates an easy way to connect with your customers and create the conversations essential to lifecycle marketing.
What’s more, email marketing is measurable.
This means you have the ability to analyze each stage of the lifecycle to understand what’s working and what parts customers aren’t engaging with. When customers are fully engaged with your messages, you create a personalized, ongoing relationship with them. However, you can’t create or maintain this relationship by sending simple e-blasts to your entire list.
Instead, you must leverage the capabilities of different types of personalized emails to drive every stage of your lifecycle campaigns. Then you’ll see a boost in ROI on email.
If you’d like to learn more about lifecycle marketing, download our new guide.
This Monday, we wanted to provide you with some articles from across the web that focus exclusively on email, because hey, we love email! So, kick off your week with a glance at six of our favorite email marketing articles from the last couple of weeks.
How Are Email Marketers Handling the Shift to Mobile? | Marketing Land
“Email messages are more likely to be opened on a smartphone than a PC”… let that sink in. Mobile is huge for email marketers. Read this article to find some interesting statistics, including how many companies are adapting to mobile, and how to successfully optimize your emails.
Email is Still the Best Thing on the Internet | the Atlantic
All those out there who aren’t fans of email should probably read this article. Email isn’t dead, and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. This article, posted by The Atlantic, goes into detail about the direction of email and why exactly it is the primary means of direct social communication on the Internet.
B2B Email Marketing: How a global information company transformed from batch-and-blast to persona-driven email marketing | MarketingSherpa
IHS, the company featured in this case study, had a subscriber prospect database that needed to increase in growth and engagement. Watch/read about this case study, conducted by MarketingSherpa, which explains some of the drastic (and downright bold) moves IHS made when moving from a batch-and-blast mentality to a strategy founded on personalization.
The Deadly Sins of Email Marketing | Business 2 Community
This article offers a high-level overview of eight key things to consider when creating your next email campaign in order to avoid sending an email that won’t perform.
The Best Path to the Inbox: From Decisions to Delivery | MarketingProfs
Sending successful emails is no easy feat. According to this article via MarketingProfs, two of the key components that determine the success of your email are the “two D’s of email marketing: decision and delivery.” This article explains this concept and the various components that make up successful decisions and delivery.
Don’t Just “Bolt on” Email | ClickZ
It is remarkable to hear about companies who don’t think email needs the same strategic process that other elements of marketing receive. This article from ClickZ recounts a firsthand experience with a brand that had this mindset, and then gives suggestions on when and how you should factor email into an overall marketing strategy.
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Earlier this month, Joy Ugi wrote about Google’s official wide release of the “automatic unsubscribe” link. This link, placed at the top mail displayed in the Promotions, Social or Forum tabs, allows the user to request to unsubscribe from mailings immediately. The feature was announced in February, but just made official on August 6.
In the wake of this announcement, many marketers are worried this link will diminish their list size, slashing the reach of their promotional emails. At WhatCounts, we see this as a positive change instead of a cause for alarm, and here’s why.
It’s been happening for months
Since the Gmail team announced the live beta of this feature in February, the unsubscribe link has been added to many marketing and promotional messages delivered to Gmail users. If you’ve been sending mail regularly for the past six months, the likelihood is high some or all of your messages have already been including this link. If you haven’t seen a mass exodus of subscribers during this time, it’s unlikely to start now.
It’s the law
The U.S. CAN-SPAM Act requires you to include an unsubscribe link in any promotional email. Later rulings on that law have indicated the link must also make the unsubscribe process simple to perform. Some senders begrudgingly include the unsubscribe link but try to hide it, making it hard for subscribers to locate and stop the mailings. While this may not be a direct violation of CAN-SPAM, it does open the door for legal challenges that can put a major damper on your marketing efforts.
It reduces spam complaints
In addition to aiding in legal compliance, moving the unsubscribe link to the top of the mailing has one major positive effect: It reduces spam complaints. Subscribers who flag a message as spam often do so because they simply want to stop receiving messages. If the unsubscribe link is displayed prominently at the top of the message, they are more likely to use that link instead of the Spam button. Some senders have reported a decrease of up to 75 percent in spam complaints after implementing a more prominent unsubscribe link.
It’s a best practice
One key idea to remember in all of this is that anyone who clicks the unsubscribe link doesn’t want to receive your mailings. Making the unsubscribe link more prominent only makes it easier for those people to remove themselves from your list, allowing you to avoid spending money sending email to users who aren’t interested in your messages.
On top of that, most ISPs use engagement rates to help determine how mail is filtered. Removing users who don’t engage with your messages will increase your overall engagement rates, increasing the likelihood your mail will get delivered to the inbox for the users who want to receive it.
If you have any additional questions or need more information, please don’t hesitate to contact the WhatCounts Support team for assistance.
Drip email marketing is the “dripping” of series of relevant emails to a specified list of subscribers. These messages are typically designed to build a relationship, increase customer retention, or guide leads through the sales process.
Automation of email messages in a drip campaign is based on pre-determined time intervals, email order and number of messages. For example, when someone downloads an eBook from your website, they might get the first thank-you/introduction email within 24 hours, a second follow-up email in three days, and a third email a week later. In this example, you’ve sent three messages total; however, drip campaigns can have any number of emails in the channel, the number just needs to be determined prior to the start of the campaign.
Drip campaigns are commonly employed because they are both efficient and successful at keeping a brand top-of-mind. Efficient, because once implemented, they free up time for your sales and marketing teams. Successful, because they can lead to up to a 20 percent increase in sales opportunities if designed correctly.
Common Types of Drip Campaigns
As mentioned above, drip emails can be used for a variety of purposes. Here are some drip campaigns topics you can introduce to your email marketing mix:
- Relationship-building campaigns: Funnel leads through the sales process by establishing a relationship first. Offering valuable content, answering questions, and attempting to engage with your readers are good elements to include in your emails.
- Educational campaigns: Keep leads and/or customers informed about relevant product information as they need it. You can use advanced segmentation to ensure only people interested in your updates receive communication about them.
- Re-engagement campaigns: Target your cold leads or customers you haven’t heard from in a while with a clever email series. Perhaps you could use this as an opportunity to present a special offer or try something out-of-the-box to grab lost attention.
- Promotional campaigns: Inform subscribers of upcoming or limited-time promotions.
It’s important to note drip campaigns can be particularly useful for creating qualified leads for sales teams, as the farther through the campaign a lead goes, the more exposure they will have had to your brand, which will help them in determining if they’re ready to invest.
Regardless of what sort of drip campaign you’re conducting, it’s smart to segment your subscribers by their similarities and their relationship to your brand. Segmenting will help ensure your emails remain hyper-relevant and timely to their position in the sales cycle.
Tips for Your Drip Campaigns
Escalation – You want to make sure your emails make sense sequentially. The best drip campaigns are often ones where the messages increase in value and prominent calls-to-action as they proceed down the channel. People generally take a long time to make decisions, so use this opportunity to send snippets of information that build with time.
Testing – Like any email, the key to a successful drip campaign is to perform testing to see what works best for your subscribers. A/B test ideas include, but are not limited to:
- Subject Line
Value – It’s critical to include some form of value in any and all email communication you send to leads and customers. This component is especially critical during drip campaigns, where many of your readers are in the evaluating/research stage of purchase. For leads who have the potential to turn into customers, the pre-investment stage is a perfect time to squash their indecision on purchasing by assuring them through your content that your company is the best at what it does. Do this by offering thought leadership through means of educational resources, videos, case studies, blog posts, etc. Additionally, stand out by tailoring your content to subtly address the questions leads may be having about your industry and/or brand.
Something Extra – We preach about this often, but if you want to stand out in the inbox, you need to do something different, and make an impression with readers so they remember your brand. Try experimenting with creative themes and a bold, brand-conscious look and feel. You could also try including something interactive in your email, such as a quiz.
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
The first job of your lifecycle email marketing campaign, after identifying your audience, is capturing the attention of that audience. This relies on two principles: First, the person must recognize a need. Second, the person must be actively looking to fulfill that need.
There are a lot of people who have needs, but don’t recognize them. It’s your job to help these people perceive and acknowledge they have needs. This is often time-consuming and expensive. If someone is content driving a car with poor gas mileage, no warranty, and deteriorating metal, it will require tremendous effort from a marketer to convince the person to change his or her point of view about the beloved clunker.
The second type of prospect marketers must try to capture is one who knows he or she has a problem, but isn’t actively looking to solve it. This could be the case for a number of reasons: the person isn’t the decision maker; he or she doesn’t have enough resources to make the purchase; or the person doesn’t have a clear idea of a purchasing timeframe.
Once you have an audience in which at least some members understand they have a need to be filled, you must capture their attention. How can you get them to notice you and begin to explore what you’re offering?
Be there before the sale. You can do this in a few ways:
When someone uses a search engine to look for the products and services you offer, make sure you’re high up, if not first, in the resulting search engine list. The challenge is you never know if you’re actually high in search rankings, because Google has done away with telling marketers what the most-used keywords are. So how can you be sure you’re achieving good SEO? Make sure your inbound links are of high quality and content on your site is authoritative. You can do this by creating relevant, original content for your website.
2. Email Sign Up
Your email marketing is the primary way you should be telling people about your company and establishing it as an expert in its field. Sending relevant, timely, targeted, awe-inspiring emails is the easiest way to provide value to your subscribers whether or not they’re interested in buying. At WhatCounts, we love email because creating an awe-inspiring email isn’t easy – but it’s powerful.
But even out-of-this-world email campaigns are worthless without people reading them. It would seem obvious to make your email signup process as easy and obvious as possible if you’re trying to drive business through email marketing. However, it only takes a few clicks around the Internet to reveal just how far that reality is for many marketers. Make your signup process as painless as possible by using a variety of methods.
First, ensure your email signup is above the fold on every page of your website, so it’s visible wherever people visit your site. Your signup process should be simple and clear, not convoluted, complicated or misleading. Even if prospects aren’t ready to purchase, you can make sure you’re front of mind when they are by sending them educational emails.
You can also use lightboxes, or website pop-ups, to draw attention to your email signup. These catch the hit-and-run visitors, whose attention last seconds before bouncing off your site. In order to get these visitors to make a move, use a bold call-to-action in your lightbox.
These are just a few ideas for capturing your customers’ attention with lifecycle marketing. To explore this topic more, feel free to get your copy of What’s the Buzz? Lifecycle Marketing Explained.
In less than two weeks, September will be upon us. Kiddies are heading back to school, traffic is getting a little heavier, and it’s a struggle to get back into the swing of things. But the fun of summer doesn’t have to end! There are lots of exciting aspects to September, and you can use them to pep up your email campaigns. In fact, here are four themes to inspire your September emails:
1. Back to school
For some kids, the exodus back to school has already begun. For others, they won’t have to face the classroom again until beginning-to-mid September. This makes now until the middle of next month a perfect time to send a back-to-school themed email campaign. Show your subscribers why they need to buy your products in order to have a successful start to the school year.
Take a peek at Apple’s back-to-school email, targeted at the older generation of kids returning to college for the year.
Bring a new iPhone back to school. And get $50 in apps.
The leaves change color. The air gets nippy. Apples are ready to be picked.
Sept. 23 marks the autumnal equinox, which tells the world it’s officially fall. Why not draw attention to your most fall-friendly products and services with an email?
Here are some subject line ideas from past autumn emails:
- Time to Reboot (for a retailer’s boot sale)
- Get ready for cooler weather
- Hello, Fall
- 10+ ways to make fall your favorite season
- Autumn is here…time to fall into a good book!
- Five Great Long-Weekend Trip Ideas for Fall (Attn: Travel marketers)
- It’s not just the leaves that are falling
- Fall Air+Cool Jackets=Happy Camper
- Top 11 trends for fall…see what made our list!
- Fall’s Must-Haves
And remember the rules about capitalizing the names of the seasons: Don’t, unless it’s a part of a proper name. “Trends for fall” - don’t capitalize. “The Freaky Fall Festival is here” - capitalize.
3. National observance
One of the ways brands can be most human to their customers is by remembering national holidays. September brings the 911 Remembrance on the 11th. Here’s your chance not to sell, but to simply offer a message of gratitude and remembrance.
4. Just for fun
If you have extra time on your hands, consider sending a message to your senior subscribers on Sept. 7 for Grandparent’s Day. Or on World Gratitude Day – Sept. 21 – thank your subscribers for reading your emails and send them an extra discount or freebie. Everyone loves a thank you! Or give your subscribers the chance to ping you with questions on Sept. 28 for Ask a Stupid Question Day. We’d certainly love to hear from you!
What kind of emails are you planning to send this September? Share them with our readers below.
It’s always encouraging to get a pat on the back for something you’ve worked hard on. The blood, sweat and tears paid off for one email marketer recently. A Place for Mom, a senior care online resource, won two 2014 email testing awards for the image testing that inspired a dramatic increase in its subscriber engagement.
WhichTestWon, a resource providing information about various tests digital marketers create and execute, awarded A Place for Mom Gold and Best-in-Show for the 2014 Email & Mobile Testing Awards. This is the second year in a row A Place for Mom has won an award from WhichTestWon.
Let’s walk through the goals, practical applications, testing process, and results of this winning campaign.
Testing Set Up and Goals
Jeff Anderson, digital marketing manager at A Place for Mom, wanted to determine if he could implement an email template that, when viewed with images off, looked respectable. He thought he could do this by rendering lo-res versions of the images you’d see with images turned on.
The first step was converting the images into lo-res mosaics. Using the Mozify feature from Email on Acid, Jeff created these mosaics, as well as overlaid text. This is how he created the orange call-to-action buttons in the right column of the test template.
The goal of testing the Images-Off Optimized email template against the regular control version was to gain a higher click-to-open rate, (CTOR). There would be two specific user-determined actions acting as a catalyst for the boost in engagement:
- Subscribers are compelled to turn on images when they see there’s something interesting and attractive in the email.
- User experience improves as subscribers understand and interact with the images-off emails when needed.
With images on, both tested templates are identical. But with images off, there’s a noticeable difference.
“Click-to-open rate was the right metric to use because for those who haven’t opened the email, there is no detectable difference between the templates,” said Jeff.
Testing, Testing, 1,2,3…
Using the Images-Off Optimized email and the control email, Jeff set up a simple A/B test. He split a large representative sample of A Place for Mom’s list of over 300,000 opted-in subscribers.
The test ran for about a week, and then Jeff manually selected a winner based on CTOR and sent the winning email to the rest of A Place for Mom’s list. The Images-Off Optimized email’s CTOR rate was 61 percent, whereas the control version had a 48 percent CTOR. That is a 13 percent increase in CTOR between the two versions, and a 27 percent overall improvement in CTOR for this email in general.
What should be noted is although CTOR went up, open rate declined slightly.
“I don’t think this was random,” said Jeff. “The increased email size probably decreased inbox placement and was what made the open rate lower.”
Jeff speculates the Images-Off Optimized email template hit fewer inboxes because those mosaics are coded into the email rather than hosted on a server like image files – meaning they take up a lot of memory.
However, although open rate did go down a little, Jeff understood the reasons why and realized for this particular email test, CTOR rate was what mattered. WhichTestWon obviously agreed, too!
If you want to learn more about email testing, Jeff Anderson will be sharing more case studies on September 4th. Hope you can come to the webinar!
Everyone knows the age-old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” It’s important as a marketer you put extra thought into the images in your emails. Picking out the first stock image you find isn’t going to cut it.
Let’s walk through some key elements to consider when tackling your email image strategy.
1. Your Brand
This may seem obvious, but remember the images in your email should resonate with your brand. If you want to stand out in the inbox, make sure you’re including thoughtful, carefully curated images that connect with not only the topic of your email, but also with your brand’s overall personality.
2. Audience Demographics
Take a second to contemplate the most important factor in the success of your email: the audience. Look at your subscriber demographics and tailor your images accordingly. If your subscribers cover a wide demographic range, consider segmenting and sending slightly different images to different groups. Maybe with your younger subscription base you can push the envelope with your creativity, but with your more mature subscribers, take a more conservative approach.
You won’t know what works best until you do some testing. Try out different tactics and see what performs.
As an example, if you send a newsletter, try performing a split test with your audience. Send one batch a newsletter with (relevant) images for each article. Send another batch the newsletter with just one main image that goes with your feature story. See what happens.
3. Nature of the Email
Consider the type of email you’re sending to help you determine what type and how many images to include. For example, including visuals can be exceptionally valuable in promotional emails, where an attention-grabbing element is a must. If you want an image to be the focal point of your message, keep it above the fold to grab a reader’s attention from the get-go. In a letter-style email, images may not fit and should be limited in use.
No matter what the nature of your email, steer clear of sending a message consisting solely of images. It’s also in best practice to keep all important text in HTML and not in your images. This will help ensure the actual content of your email will display no matter what.
Note: The unsubscribe link should never be a graphic, including part of an image map. Email best practices dictate image maps are no-nos anyway.
4. Platforms and Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
Consider user experience both before selecting images and after you’ve made your selections. Responsive email design is critical—according to Movable Ink, 66 percent of emails are opened on a mobile device or tablet. Pay attention to how many subscribers appear to open your emails on a mobile device as their experience with images may be different. Using responsive design, images can be scaled to the optimum size for your mobile readers, which should help you with email performance and conversion rate.
Test against all platforms and ISPs once you have created your email. Also, be aware many ISPs block images. Make sure you include descriptions in your image’s alt text so if people can read something relevant if images aren’t turned on.
5. The Images Themselves
Last but not least, if you’re going to take the time to put images in your emails (which you should!), make sure they’re awesome, unique, creative images. Read: No clip art. With the abundance of sources for public domain images, you should enjoy finding the perfect pictures for your emails. Check out this article from WP Tavern for some helpful public domain sites.
Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
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From the Blog
Learn digital marketing tips, tricks and strategies from some of our top blog posts:
The ABCs of Email Testing: Learn about top strategies for testing your emails.
5 Easy Tips to Make Your Subject Lines Stand Out: Get noticed in the inbox with these subject line tips.
The One Thing You Should Never, Ever Do: Keep your email marketing program healthy by following this one, easy-to-do tip.